Google has announced that it has finally taken off the training wheels of its Google Earth plug-in and merged the application with its Maps service.

Released originally as a standalone app, Google Earth brings a 3D view to the world, allowing you to zoom across countries and see famous landmarks and terrain close up and personal.

Google has now launched Google Earth as a plug-in to its Maps service, offering a more detailed view of the world around us.

Earth view

In a blog post, Google said about the new plug-in: "If you're one of the hundreds of millions of people who use Maps worldwide, you can now explore the world in luxuriantly-detailed, data-rich 3D imagery and terrain from Google Earth.

"If you've already downloaded the Google Earth Plug-in, you should be able to see Earth view in Maps right away. Otherwise, you can just install the Plug-in to enjoy a Maps experience that includes angled Earth views, 3D buildings, smooth panning and zooming and a great introductory showcase of places to visit and things to see."

To make the service as easy as possible to access, Google has integrated an Earth button on its Maps page, so you can toggle between the satellite, Maps and 3D view.

Google is actually a little late to the party with its 3D plug-in – Microsoft has been has been offering the same sort of functionality for over a month now on its Bing Maps service.